Equestrian therapy can provide unique healing and empowering benefits for children and adults through the horse’s rhythmic movements, and engaging personalities that encourage horse-human interactions. Founded in 2006, the Michigan Abilities Center (MAC) in Ann Arbor has provided equine assisted therapy and healing to a countless number of clients at their 60-acre scenic 19th century farm, Heritage Hill Haven. Husband and wife team, Drs. Kathy and Steven Hinderer, run the Center and are both rehabilitation professionals who have devoted over 35 years to serving those with special needs of all ages and abilities.
Marching to a different beat
The Hinderer’s son, Ben, was diagnosed at a young age with a nonverbal learning disability and high functioning autism spectrum disorder with significant attention, coordination, fine motor, and sensory impairments. So it was to benefit their son and also help others that the Hinderer’s formed the MAC on Ben’s 14th birthday.
Under the guidance of his parents, the farm has helped Ben overcome many challenges and learn valuable life skills, including developing an outstanding work ethic and financial responsibility. Despite the outcomes many doctors and teachers predicted for Ben, now 24 years old, he has completed his mechanics certifications. He is employed as a full time skilled mechanic and recently became engaged. Heritage Hill Haven allows others like Ben who “march to the beat of a different drum” to thrive and maximize their potential.
Heritage Hill Haven’s farm provides therapy, life skills learning, and wellness programs that focus on strengths and abilities, not disabilities. Serving all ages, with an over 90-year difference among clients, therapy and learning programs are customized to achieve meaningful goals for each client. At the MAC, farm life is combined with therapy and learning through equine assisted therapy and activities (hippotherapy, therapeutic riding, equine assisted learning and mental health, and recreational riding), experiential learning, life skills, as well as traditional and alternative rehabilitation services.
15 year old, Zander Bowles, donated all of his birthday money to the MAC to help build a fence for the farm. Ann Arbor resident, Zander, has been receiving hippotherapy at the MAC for 11 years, since he was in preschool, for his quadriplegia cerebral palsy that affects his limbs, legs, and ability to control his trunk.
Zander’s parents, Lori Skibbe and Ryan Bowles described the positive impact the equine services have had on their son, “The only activity we’ve found that really helps build his core strength is horseback riding. The movement of the horse makes the muscles in Zander’s core engage in a way that no static activity does. A few years ago, we took a break from horse therapy and people started asking what was wrong with Zander. He had lost so much function in his core that others could tell just by seeing the way he could no longer hold himself up.” This benefit and so many others is why many like Zander and Ben have found a safe haven with the horses at Heritage Hill Haven.
Visit heritagehillhaven.org To find out more
about the unique services the MAC provides